Something very strange happens when people face an imminent threat to life and livelihood. The strange thing is unity such as would never have been possible otherwise. History provides countless examples, such as the defense of New Orleans in January 1815. When a veteran British force attacked the city, an odd assortment of people turned out to defend their home. They included Regular soldiers of the American army under Major General Andrew Jackson, as well as Creole gentlemen and their American merchant rivals, common laborers, farmers, militia men from far away states, black slaves and free men, and even pirates and smugglers affiliated with the infamous Jean Lafitte. Once the threat was past, these disparate segments of society returned to their separate lives and the circumstances that divided them, but for one glorious moment they experienced the joy of being a people united in a common cause.
We might consider as well the example of our Jewish brethren in World War II. Immediately before the war, an Arab revolt in British Palestine compelled His Majesty’s government to issue a White Paper in 1939 which closed the door on Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. This was a political and military necessity for the British; another Arab revolt would threaten their hold on Egypt, their link to India and the Pacific, and the lifeline of the Empire. When faced with war against Hitler’s Germany, Great Britain could not afford to lose that lifeline, and thus European Jews in peril of their lives in the Shoa (Holocaust) lost their last and best chance at escape from the death camps.
One might suppose the Jewish response to the White Paper – particularly among those living in the Land – would be violent rejection and revolt. Some did respond that way, but the most memorable response was by David Ben Gurion, at that time among the most prominent leaders of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish settlers in the Land. He expressed his position this way:
Ben Gurion’s pragmatism was instrumental in establishment of the Jewish Brigade, the only regular military unit of any Allied army in World War II comprised entirely of Jews. The Jewish Brigade served with distinction in the British forces in Egypt, Italy, and Northwest Europe, and it also served as a training ground for Jewish warriors who carried the fight for Israel’s independence after the British Mandate over Palestine ended in 1948.
Followers of The Barking Fox may have noticed the frequent appearance of illustrations by the French artist Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), better known in English as James Tissot. His works quickly came to my attention from the beginning of this blog as I began to look for pictures to enhance the impact of each post. Several qualities make Tissot’s work ideal for this purpose: a large selection of material (several hundred paintings on biblical themes); accurate depictions of the subject matter which reflect Tissot’s extensive research and personal experience in the Holy Land; the artist’s ability to capture the genuine humanness of his ancient subjects; and, perhaps most important for a blog, the fact that most of his work is in the public domain.
As a suitable close to an eventful year of blogging, it is my pleasure to share an article about the life of James Tissot written by Erik Ross, an American-born Catholic priest who teaches at a Dominican school of theology in Krakow, Poland. The article contrasts Tissot’s Catholic faith with his painstakingly accurate depiction of Jesus (Yeshua) as the first-century Jew. Oddly enough it appeared in The Times of Israel, a Jewish Israeli publication. Here it is reproduced in a Hebrew Roots blog for the enjoyment and edification of everyone.
Originally published in The Times of Israel, December 28, 2015
He was born in 1836 in Nantes to a rich cloth merchant and his wife. Jacques (“James”) Tissot had Catholic parents and was a good Catholic boy. He became a good painter and not such a good boy.
Yet, though he took his time, Tissot finally handed over his brushes to God. And in the latter years of his life, Tissot showed the mysteries of Christianity in a way no one has duplicated since.
Acting on an instinct that is second nature to Catholics — and perhaps anathema to Jews — he tried to paint the face of God.
The young Tissot wanted to live by art, but the real money was in vanity. There was no Paris Hilton in 1860s Paris, but there were plenty of goldflake beauties. Tissot painted their selfies.